LINCOLN — In an epic match between two championship-caliber teams, Meridian edged the Wolfpack Friday in a five-game thriller at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Mustangs edged the Wolfpack 25-20, 25-27, 25-11, 22-25 and 15-9, ending EPPJ’s dreams of a state championship.
Both teams turned in their best effort. It wasn’t so much that the Wolfpack lost the game, Meridian found a way to win the match and advance.
“I guess it just wasn’t meant to be today,” Coach Tina Thiele-Blecher said about the loss.
“I’m just proud of the way the girls played today. It was awesome.”
Tied two games apiece, the first to 15 in Game #5 would advance to the championship game. Each team took the other’s best shot. Meridian jumped out to a three-to-one lead. The Wolfpack answered back with a kill from Grace Henn and three service points from Calli Krebs (the last one an ace serve) to take a five-to-three lead forcing Meridian to call timeout. The Mustangs answered with a seven-to-two run to take a 10 to 7 lead. Doing much of the damage for the Mustangs was 6’1” senior Lauren DeLord with blocks and Hailey Schafer with attacks.
Following a Wolfpack timeout, a Mustang error and a kill by Elizabeth Selting cut the lead to 10 to eight.
That’s as close as the Wolfpack would get as they added just one more point, a kill by Henn, as the Mustangs closed out the match.
The match was a tense back-and-forth affair. After dropping the first game, the Wolfpack rebounded with a strong second-game effort. Up by five points early in the game, EPPJ saw the Mustangs come back to tie the score at 16-all, then surge ahead by three points. The Wolfpack answered the challenge with kills from Paige Meis and Selting and strong serving from Ally Wemhoff to tie the score at 19-all.
The Wolfpack pulled ahead 24 to 21, then Meridian capitalized on Wolfpack hitting errors to knot the score at 24-all. A kill by Allison Klipp gave the Mustangs game point. Amy Nelson wiped that away with a kill at the net. Henn followed with a kill to give the Wolfpack a game point which they capitalized with a strong serve from Baylee Wemhoff and a Mustang attack error to knot the match at one-game apiece.
Game #3 was all Meridian as they jumped out to a 12 to 3 lead and were never threatened. Nelson suffered a bloody nose and had to leave the game for a short period of time. Her replacement, Lydia Behnk, came off the bench to record a solo block to make the score 22 to 9. The Mustangs went on to win the game 25 to 11.
Down two games to one, the Wolfpack fought back in Game #4. The teams were tied at 8-all when the Wolfpack made their move. An ace serve by Jordan Mescher followed up with kills from Henn, Nelson and Selting made the score 13 to 10. From there the Wolfpack would never relinquish the lead. Meridian closed to within one point at 17 to 16.
The Wolfpack then answered with a eight to six run. Mescher had four service points and Henn had two kills, the last coming on game point to force a decisive fifth game.
For the match, Selting led hitters with 12 kills, Meis and Henn each had nine, Nelson added eight and Mescher had one.
Baylee Wemhoff had a team-high 20 set assists, Ally Wemhoff had 13 and Nicki Payne had four.
Mescher led the team in digs with 30, Krebs had 14, Ally Wemhoff posted 10 followed by Selting with nine, Nelson had eight, Baylee Wemhoff had four, Henn, Meis and Payne each had two.
Mescher, Krebs and Nelson each had one ace serve. Nelson had six solo blocks, Lydia Behnk, Selting, Meis and Henn each had one.
Meridian (26-5) had 65 kills in the match, led by Rylee Pieper with 24. Erin Johnson had 50 set assists and Lauren DeLord notched 11 solo blocks.